A neighborhood fresco and its place in the history of SF


The quiet block of Treat Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets looks like your typical residential thoroughfare. Unless you look closely, you might miss a piece of San Francisco history hidden among colorful Victorians, drab buildings, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

But here it is: a faded mural of neighborhood kids, an iconic recording studio, and characters from the San Francisco Mime Troupe, which resides at 855 Treat Ave. since 1965, chipped and obscured by trees.

Mission muralist Juana Alicia Araiza hopes to revitalize her 1985 mural, “Para Las Rosas”, next summer, and has already raised some of the funds and support for a full restoration.

“It’s a spark of joy in the street, and it tells a story,” said Ellen Callas, member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe collective and its current CEO. “Pictures tell stories, and it is important to tell the story of culture… in the Mission, before it is erased.

This mural tells a whole story: from legends who recorded in the building that once housed Fantasy Records, to the theatrical activism of the mime troupe and individual community members who grew up in this neighborhood.

Jorge Vega was only six or seven years old when Araiza painted him and his family members on the building in front of his childhood home.

“It was pretty cool back then; I mean, who doesn’t want to be on a mural? Said Vega, who is now in her 40s and lives in East Bay. The mural is named after her mother, Rosa, who visited Araiza while she worked, bringing her Salvadoran pupusas, tamales and flowers.

“I had a really bureaucratic name for the mural at the time… bullshit, a silly name,” Araiza told Mission Local this month. But one day Rosa brought her roses and Araiza decided to dedicate the mural to her and her family who fled the US-backed war in El Salvador.

Vega remembers an “exclusive little neighborhood” of families from all over Latin America and the enthusiasm he and his neighbors felt to be permanently portrayed in the mural. And Araiza plans to keep them there – but also to update their portraits in those of adults.

The mime troupe rose to fame in the mid-1960s for their guerrilla theater and political commentary. Various performances of its members are also represented on the wall.

“All of our work is about the people, the workers, the class struggle,” Callas said. Preserving the fresco will in a way make it possible to counter “the risk of homogenization and pasteurization”.

The piece also features a tribute to the original inhabitant of space: Fantasy Records, a label established in 1949 that has recorded artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival, jazz musician Vince Guaraldi, and poet Beat Alan Ginsberg.

“If you’re in the building at night, you feel the presence of the older ones,” Callas said. “It’s kind of suspended in the air. Juana managed to capture that in the mural.

California and American poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera conjures memories of third grade and Harrison Street in a poem on the mural. “… Paul Desmond taps his left blue suede shoe, melts the saxophone,” writes Herrera, “the stunning vermilion blue of the maraca zandunga the heat of jazz on Treat Street spinning the scaffolding and sketches of Juanalicia in the air.

Araiza, 68, and a longtime muralist, said the idea for the mural came to her in a sudden revelation, in a dream or a vision. Now, decades later, she says her skills have developed and, she believes, have gotten “a little bit wilder.”

Araiza is responsible for some of the Mission’s best-known works: the Maestra mural on the Women’s Building on 18th Street; The Sacred Waters of La Llorona on the side of a taqueria at 24th and York streets; and she recently won a competition to create a piece for a wall in the redeveloped Mission branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

Already she has started working on “Para Las Rosas”, starting with a “pilot restoration” earlier this year from comedian Lenny Bruce, who recorded with Fantasy Records. Developments in art technology will allow for a lasting restoration, Araiza said, with UV protection and a wax coating to simplify removal of the inevitable markings.

“Although not officially recognized as a city landmark, the restoration of the mural will help commemorate a cultural monument,” said Kerri Young, spokesperson for San Francisco Heritage, which assists with the organization. community. The project, said Young, will promote the legacy of the mural to “new audiences and longtime residents, and help bring new vitality to an often overlooked block of the Mission.”

Araiza also intends to add other important figures, including artist Yolanda López, who died this fall, and Chicano poet Francisco Alarcón.

To do the job, Araiza has requested $ 60,000 in funding from the city through the 2022 Community Challenge grant. Recipients will be announced in the spring. Already, over $ 15,000 for the matchmaking requirement has been raised.

In the spring, with the Brava Theater as her tax agent, Araiza will be working on crowdsourcing the rest she needs to make the new mural a reality next summer.

In dark times, Callas said: “Para Las Rosas” is “a reminder that you have a voice”.

To contribute to the restoration of “Para Las Rosas”, contact the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Brava Theater, or click on here.

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